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KHN First Edition: May 9, 2016


First Edition

Monday, May 09, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: Sharing Your Doctor With A Group
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "The women sat in a circle and bemoaned their sleepless nights. It seemed unfair: Their babies weren’t even born yet. ... These moms-to-be weren’t just commiserating over coffee. They were at a routine prenatal visit — all five of them at once. The women are participating in a unique type of health care: shared medical appointments. As a group, they see nurse midwife Mercedes Taha for 10 two-hour visits throughout their pregnancies. They take turns being examined, learn more about childbirth and parenting, and as their due dates approach, celebrate with a joint baby shower." (Gorman, 5/9)

The New York Times: Arizona Restores Health Program For Children Of Working Poor
A health care program for children of the working poor that had been left out of the budget approved by the Arizona Legislature this week was resuscitated on Friday, after Democrats and moderate Republicans agreed to attach it to a bill expanding disabled students’ eligibility for school vouchers. After blocking a previous stand-alone bill authorizing the program last month, the Senate president, Andy Biggs, allowed the amended measure to come to a vote on Friday. The House of Representatives had already passed it 38 to 21 late Thursday. (Santos, 5/6)

Reuters: Arizona Joins Rest Of U.S. In Adding Health Insurance Program For Children
Arizona opted out of the federal Children's Health Insurance Program in 2010 over cost concerns as it grappled with a budget crunch. The program aims to help working families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid health care coverage for the poor, but who cannot afford private health insurance. To qualify for KidsCare, as it's known in Arizona, a family of four must earn between $33,000 and $49,000 annually. It is estimated to serve about 30,000 children in Arizona. (Schwartz, 5/6)

Reuters: Cigna Says Anthem Deal Could Close In 2017; Anthem Sticks To 2016
Health insurer Cigna Corp, which announced plans to be bought by larger Anthem Inc 10 months ago, on Friday said the deal may close in 2017 rather than 2016 due to the complexity of the regulatory process, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The U.S. Department of Justice is currently reviewing the Cigna-Anthem deal, which would create the nation's largest health insurer, offering Medicare, Medicaid and commercial health insurance. (Humer, 5/6)

The Associated Press: Feds Propose Limits On Special Sign-Ups For Obama Health Law
The Obama administration says it's moving to limit special sign-up periods under the president's health care law after insurers complained of abuses. Under a policy change proposed Friday, people who try to get coverage after moving to a different community will have to show they were insured at their previous address at least some of the time during the previous 60 days. (5/6)

The New York Times: Nursing Homes Turn To Eviction To Drop Difficult Patients
Nursing homes are increasingly evicting their most challenging residents, advocates for the aged and disabled say, testing protections for some of society's most vulnerable. Those targeted for eviction are frequently poor and suffering from dementia, according to residents' allies. They often put up little fight, their families unsure what to do. Removing them makes room for less labor-intensive and more profitable patients, critics of the tactic say, noting it can be shattering. (5/8)

The New York Times: Black Americans See Gains In Life Expectancy
It is a bitter but basic fact in health research: Black Americans die at higher rates than whites from most causes, including AIDS, heart disease, cancer and homicide. But a recent trove of federal data offered some good news. The suicide rate for black men declined from 1999 to 2014, making them the only racial group to experience a drop. Infant mortality is down by more than a fifth among blacks since the late 1990s, double the decline for whites. Births to teenage mothers, which tend to have higher infant mortality rates, have dropped by 64 percent among blacks since 1995, faster than for whites. (Tavernise, 5/8)

The Associated Press: Once Unthinkable In US, Drug Shoot-Up Rooms Get Serious Look
Across the United States, heroin users have died in alleys behind convenience stores, on city sidewalks and in the bathrooms of fast-food joints — because no one was around to save them when they overdosed. An alarming 47,000 American overdose deaths in 2014 — 60 percent from heroin and related painkillers like fentanyl — has pushed elected leaders from coast to coast to consider what was once unthinkable: government-sanctioned sites where users can shoot up under the supervision of a doctor or nurse who can administer an antidote if necessary. (5/8)

The Washington Post: Her Fiance Gave Her Heroin. She Overdosed. Does That Make Him A Murderer?
When Jarret McCasland and his fiancee decided to celebrate her 19th birthday with heroin, it meant the end of her life and the end of his freedom. Flavia Cardenas, who worked in a nightclub, died of an overdose the next morning in Baton Rouge. After a prosecutor convinced a jury that McCasland administered the fatal dose, the 27-year-old pipe fabrication shop worker was found guilty of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison in February with no chance for parole. (Kuznia, 5/8)

Politico: Confessions Of An Ex-Regulator: Farzad Mostashari On How Government Should Work
Farzad Mostashari spent two years leading the White House effort to implement electronic health records. Now that he's running his own company — on the other side of those federal regulations — Mostashari sees numerous problems with how government rulemaking works, he told POLITICO this week. "Regulators really, really, really want to get it right," Mostashari said on POLITICO's "Pulse Check" podcast, but they end up being too cautious and conciliatory. And that's bad for health care, he argues, because it protects underperformers and lets them stick around. (Diamond, 5/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care And Biotech Funds Come Back To Life
Investors interested in health-care and biotech funds know all too well that the sector underperformed in the first quarter of 2016 after making a flashy run before that. Following the awful start to the year, however, the sector is again showing signs of life. In April, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds focused on health care and biotech rose 3.6%, one of the best-performing sectors tracked by Lipper Inc. That followed drops of 14% in the first quarter and 17% in the 12 months through March, as political scrutiny about drug prices weighed on the sector. (Akhtar, 5/8)

NPR: Professional 'Guinea Pigs' Can Make A Living Testing Drugs
There are lots of ways to make a buck, but becoming a human guinea pig for drug research has to be one of the oddest. "We are selling our bodies, most definitely," says Paul Clough, who has taken part in more than 80 drug tests in the past 11 years. "Well, renting," might be more accurate, he concedes. Clough, who's 37, also runs a website that helps people find trials to sign up for. Some are like the one he's doing right now, which stretches over three months and involves multiple stints living in a clinic with other volunteers, eating cafeteria food and showing up on time to get his vitals checked or to pop another pill. (Bichell, 5/8)

NPR: How A Cancer Drug Has Saved People From Going Blind
Ten years may not seem like a long time, but in my field, ophthalmology, it has made the difference between going blind and still being able to drive.Ten years ago, if you developed wet age-related macular degeneration, a disease that wreaks havoc on central vision and limits the ability to read, recognize faces and generally see up close, there wasn't much we could do. If you were lucky and had a specific form of the disease, the best we had to offer was a laser treatment called photodynamic therapy, or PDT. Sadly, it didn't really do enough to help save vision; most people's sight still worsened. Then some brilliant minds applied principles of cancer therapy to come up with a treatment that could actually improve vision in people with wet AMD. (Rosenthal, 5/6)

The New York Times: Group Doctor Visits Gain Ground
Want to spend more quality time with your doctor? Maybe you should try joining a group. Paradoxical as that may sound, it works remarkably well for Bill Swain, 69, who began going to shared medical appointments several years ago after his doctor suggested the idea. Now he attends quarterly sessions for eight to 15 people that usually last 90 minutes. A digital white board lists group members’ vital signs, such as blood pressure and weight. Mr. Swain, who doesn’t like falling behind his peers, especially likes the accountability and the extra medical attention. (Gustke, 5/6)

The Associated Press: E-Cigarette Poisonings Surge In Young Children, Study Says
Electronic cigarettes have sickened rising numbers of young children, a study of U.S. poison center calls has found. Most cases involve swallowing liquid nicotine. While most kids weren't seriously harmed, one child died and several had severe complications including comas and seizures. "This is an epidemic by any definition," said lead author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. (5/9)

NPR: When Pregnant Women Get Flu Shots, Babies Are Healthier
Kimberly Richardson has never gotten a flu shot. Since she's healthy and considers the seasonal vaccines a "best-guess concoction" of the viruses expected to dominate, the northern California gym teacher and mother of two says she didn't want an "injection of something that may or may not keep me healthy in the long run." She's not alone. In an analysis of 245,386 women who delivered babies at Utah and Idaho hospitals over nine flu seasons, 90 percent said they didn't get vaccinated for influenza while pregnant. Those who did reaped benefits — their babies were healthier. (Landhuis, 5/7)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2016 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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